Jails are not easy places to survive, especially for first-time inmates who don’t yet know that everything inside has a price.
Police investigations and questioning of prisoners revealed that everything from a boiled egg to a hygienic sleeping space is available inside, but they come with a price tag. Money can ensure that the stay behind bars is comfortable and there is no “trouble”.
Another key to surviving jail: Get the blessings of a ‘bhai [goon]’.
“We are trying hard to break the dominance of certain people inside jails,” said an official of the prison department requesting anonymity.
The people running the show in jails, or the so-called ‘bhais’, are usually inmates serving time for the most violent crimes. “For example, accused who are lodged for murders are the ones respected inside and are feared and respected, so are inmates involved in any grievous crime. And every barrack has a leader, to whom the other inmates have to bow down to,” said a police officer.
On the flipside, those who are imprisoned for rape or molestation are not easily accepted and suffer a lot of misery.
“Immediately after an accused enters the jail premises, the gangs initially try to get an understanding of an accused as to what case they have been arrested for and [about] their family members, and if the accused proves to be a soft target then they extort a lot of money from them,” a source said.
A clean, well-ventilated place to sleep in the barracks can go for anything from Rs 40,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh a month, which is paid to the family of the biggest goon. Food cravings too are catered to in jails if you’re willing to pay for it — a single boiled egg sets you back Rs 100.
“Every barrack has an open area, which has good ventilation, and it is at the entrance of the barrack... the leader of the barrack sleeps [there],” revealed a source. “The amount [for a clean place to sleep] depends on the capacity of an individual [to pay], but if an inmate doesn’t wish to pay the amount, he will have to sleep near the toilet area, the most unhygienic place in the jail.”
Officials said their investigation also revealed that a three-minute phone call from inside the jail costs around Rs 500. A search in the high-security Anda Cell of Arthur Road Jail showed that inmates abused their lawful right to carry their case documents inside to hide and smuggle phones into the jail.
“After the phones are handed over to them, the jail inmates shove the phones, which are small Chinese cell phones, in shoes and other places to hide it from the jail authorities and remove it whenever they wish to call... This process [of hiding contraband] has been termed as ‘godown’,” said a source.
The jails are overcrowded, with more than 200 people stuffed into a 2,000-sq-foot barrack. The source claimed that inmates often aren’t able to sleep on their back due lack of space. But it is not so for everyone.
“Inside Arthur Road Jail, the 8 number circle is very famous as the big fishes, including those accused in cheating cases and high-profile politicians, are kept [here],” said a source.
Jails tend to have rules of their own — it is not innocent until proven guilty, but guilty until you are proven innocent.